A map of tax lots in Bend where the owner’s mailing address is not Oregon

Anyone want to guess which states the colors are?

Purple is probably an easy one.

I posted this to Twitter and it caught some attention, so here’s an interactive version of the map for all of Deschutes County. Click the sidebar at left for a key to the colors. More details below the map.

This map is only a visualization. Want to find the actual names and records behind the colors? Visit dial.deschutes.org.

This is just for fun

As far as analysis goes, this is just a quick preliminary sketch. This only categorizes raw data using the Mailing Address field on county tax records.

Here are some limitations of what we’re looking at:

Tax records are often in the name of a trust or other non-person entity and that can obfuscate where – or who – the actual owner is. Some of the larger California blocks on the map, for example, are development holding companies – building homes on vacant land – and while the company is registered in California, many people involved can be locals. Going in the other direction, an Oregon address on the tax records could be a local entity for a faraway parent company.

I don’t know yet how this compares to other places. Most Bendites have a sense that there are a lot of Californians here, but I haven’t done the analysis yet on whether the stark colors on the map are actually statistically significant, nor have I done a comparative analysis to other towns to see how they stack up. You’ll notice Redmond glows just as much as Bend.

The data is just messy. This is user submitted data. There were typos. Just the state abbreviation for Oregon was variously found as DR, OIR, iOR, ORR, and PR. There are inconsistencies. Bend La Pine Schools was found under more than a dozen different entries, from the cryptic School Dist #1 to a mile long version fully spelled out. This map was just for fun, so I don’t know yet what other horrors await in data validation.

This doesn’t tell us how the land is used. Are those people from Tennessee living in the home or is it a rental? We’d need other datasets to figure out anything more.

How it was made

The first version of this map that I posted is dead simple to recreate in your favorite GIS application. I use QGIS because it is free and reliable.

Download the data from the Deschutes County data portal. This came from Deschutes FGDB gdb, which is the big all-in-one package from the county. If you just want the files to make this, you can use Taxlot (map) and GIS_MAILING (tables).

The first version only changed the color. That’s it. Load the map, “join” the data, and then apply a categorized symbology.

The interactive version above was simplified. I really wanted to create this using D3, but it kept breaking on me. Google My Maps are clunky, but quick to deploy (sorry map nerds). Google has a file size limit, which means I needed to trim some fat. By simplified, I mean I deleted all tax lots with Oregon or null addresses. (Null addresses were mostly federal land – not taxed.) I didn’t want to simplify the geometry (round the corners of shapes on the map), so I also merged a bunch of tax lots for California and Washington. Everything got merged by state in the end.

All of the tax lots were stripped of their individual data. County tax records are public documents. The names of who owns each tax lot on this map, the assessed values, and much more is available at dial.deschutes.org. It was removed from this version only for simplicity.

I love playing with maps and was excited to see the response this received on Twitter! Have something else in mind you’d like to see? Get in touch!

2023 update: If you liked that, you may also find these maps from High Country News interesting: Who owns the West?

Eric Lint lives in Bend

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